Home North East Business leaders in the North East outline Autumn Statement wish list

Business leaders in the North East outline Autumn Statement wish list

Autumn Statement preview: (L-R): Lee Watson of Clive Owen, Tania Cooper of the North East STEM Foundation, Ben Quaintrell of My Property Box, and Sim Hall of Populus Select

According to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt “everything is on the table” when it comes to tax cuts, ahead of today’s (Wednesday 22nd November) Autumn Statement

There have already been heavy hints at some of its content with the broad aims of driving growth while reducing ‘big government and generally getting the economy back on track.

Ahead of one of the most important financial events of the political calendar – ahead of an impending general election – business leaders and financial experts in the North East have outlined what they predict or hope to see included in the Autumn Statement.

Lee Watson, partner at Clive Owen LLP, which has offices in Darlington, Durham, Middlesbrough, and York, said: “Despite the revolving door in the cabinet, Jeremy Hunt remains in his position as Chancellor, which shows that the Prime Minister has faith in him.

“In September, the Chancellor suggested he would not be in a position to cut taxes or increase public spending with the country on the cusp of a recessions. I’d suggest that there will be further announcements in respect of research and development, including the abolishment of the SME R&D scheme.

“In addition, there was a rumour that inheritance tax would be abolished but that seems unlikely, however, do not rule out some reforms being proposed. Finally, given that there will be a general election in the next financial year, the chancellor may suggest future tax cuts to attempt to win votes including potential tax breaks to get those that have retired early, back into the workplace.”

Ben Quaintrell, the founder of North East estate agency group My Property Box, which has offices in Darlington and Newcastle, said: “The Chancellor may not have much wiggle room given the current economic constraints, but he must prioritise measures encouraging business growth and investment.

“Lowering the tax burden on business will relieve the current financial pressures on entrepreneurs and encourage greater investment in growth, which is more important than reducing inheritance tax. It would be good to see a lowering of the tax burden for individuals, but this may not be possible over the short term given the concerted efforts to depress inflation, which in turn will lower mortgage rates.

“As a landlord himself, Jeremy Hunt will appreciate the need to encourage greater investment in the property sector and he may consider a Stamp Duty holiday that will both stimulate the market as well as the wider economy.”

Tania Cooper MBE, Chair of North East STEM Foundation and Managing Director of Middlesbrough-based Steel Benders UK Ltd, said: “In the North East, we are experiencing a vibrant industrial landscape, amplified by substantial investments and initiatives, which is key to the economic development of the area, meaning there has never been a better time to invest in our young people.

“I implore Mr. Hunt to prioritise STEM education in his upcoming statement, to ensure that all individuals can access high-quality technical education, enabling them to thrive in our increasingly complex and interconnected world. Particularly given the growth and investment in the North East, which requires more skilled people to fill positions.”

Karl Pemberton, managing director of Active Chartered Financial Planners, which is based in Thornaby, said: “The last couple of years of instability have been challenging for business. It’s time for the Chancellor to usher in measures which will deliver certainty because it is only with confidence that businesses can invest and grow. General economic growth is in all our interests, so I hope the Chancellor will use his fiscal headroom to stimulate investment.”

Sim Hall, Managing Director of Darlington-headquartered Populus Select, a global recruitment firm supporting science, engineering and manufacturing businesses to secure high-skilled individuals, said: “If the UK is to be seen as a prime destination for the most cutting-edge science businesses, and also develop its own homegrown businesses producing the most exciting technologies, then the Chancellor has a great deal more to do to drive research, development and training incentives.

“One simple win, which would see continued investment into smaller, growth ready businesses would be an extension of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), which are due to conclude in April 2025.

“But no matter the investment they receive, businesses without the right skills are doomed to stagnate. Across the world, our clients are facing skills shortages. In the UK, average employer spending on training has decreased by 27% per trainee since 2011, and the days spent on workplace training has fallen by 19% in England. Without up-to-date skills, there cannot be productivity improvements – a persistent problem in this country. Capital allowances for skills – in the same way there is for hardware – would help to build a workforce ready and fit for future industries.”

• The Autumn Statement is expected to begin at 12.40pm